BAT AYIN, West Bank – A Palestinian killed an Israeli teenager with a pickax and seriously injured a 7-year-old boy in a rampage through this West Bank Jewish settlement Thursday, posing an early test for the country’s new hard-line government.
Israeli media broadcast pictures of the body of 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ, bespectacled with long sidecurls and a large skullcap worn by observant Jews. The images also showed the red pickax on the ground with drops of blood splattered on a road.
The attacker escaped the scene and Israeli troops, joined by bearded settlers armed with automatic rifles, were conducting a manhunt in the area. In the nearby Palestinian village of Safa, troops searched houses and rounded up residents in a schoolyard. The military said all roads around the settlement of Bat Ayin were closed.
The settlement is notorious in Israel for being the base of the so-called “Bat Ayin Underground,” whose members were arrested over a botched 2002 bombing on an Arab girls’ school in Jerusalem. The wounded boy’s father, a member of the underground, is currently serving a 15-year sentence for his involvement in that bombing attempt.
Avinoam Maymon, a 45-year-old resident of the extremist settlement, said he tried to stop the assailant after the attack, violently struggling with him for a minute or two.
“He tried to kill me. I grabbed his hand and took the ax and he escaped,” he told the Associated Press.
He said the attacker fled to a neighboring “murderous village.”
The attacker apparently entered Bat Ayin, located between Jerusalem and the southern West Bank city of Hebron, unhindered. The religious settlers have refused to build a security fence around their community – standard practice in most settlements – saying it would be a sign of weakness.
The attack came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office and will likely heighten tensions with the Palestinians. The leader of the hawkish Likud Party has promised a firm hand against militants and lowered expectations on the prospects for peace.
A murky Palestinian militant group calling itself the Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail sent to the AP.